April 26, 2024 • By Dennis Beaver

“I am CEO of an educational sales organization, and we need our telemarketing staff to go out into the field, make presentations and do lunch-and-learn new product seminars with potential customers. May I legally change their job duties? Would I be required to provide training for them, and if so, what type? Thanks, ‘Walter.’”

“Yes to both questions,” says Southern California labor lawyer Daniel Klingenberger. “If employers prefer sales presentations face-to-face with existing or prospective customers, they can establish those job requirements. They would be well advised to provide appropriate sales or presentation skills training to these employees.”

I also consulted on this topic with Terri Sjodin, principal and founder of Sjodin Communications in Newport Beach.

“You would be surprised at how often these same issues come up as employees have gone from home-based to virtual and now are sent out into the field,” she says.

Sjodin, a New York Times bestselling author and a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows, has dedicated her professional life to helping people become effective speakers.

Her most recent book is Presentation Ready: Improve Your Sales Presentation Outcomes and Avoid the Twelve Most Common Mistakes.

“Most people want to improve their presentations,” she says, “but don’t know where to start. Understanding the most common mistakes — and figuring out how to avoid them — is critical because you can’t course-correct what you don’t recognize as a problem.”

She provided confidence-boosting insights to help Walter’s sales professionals get started on learning good presentation skills.

(1) Don’t wing it. Failing to prepare reveals a lack of product knowledge.

Winging it is improvising, ad-libbing or generally conducting a presentation without much preparation. It is among the top mistakes salespeople reported making that had likely ruined transactions.

Goal-oriented, persuasive presentations that need a customer’s buy-in risk failure if you are not well prepared, if you haven’t done your homework and if you don’t know your company’s product or service well. Listeners easily sense a lack of preparation where the speaker appears disorganized, unskilled and distracted.

This can have a greater cost than one lost sale; it puts the employer’s reputation at risk.

(2) Don’t be boring. Being informative has its limits.

The 2023 State of Sales Presentations Research Study from Sjodin’s company revealed that being boring is the most common mistake presenters recognized in others. This can happen for a host of reasons, including sharing too many facts and figures.

A good presentation is much more than just delivering information; you need your message to land, to create a connection with the listener.

This is accomplished by crafting a message that is engaging, interesting and amplified by stories listeners will tune in to emotionally, making the product or service relevant — something they can visualize owning or using.

“Your enthusiasm is vital!” Sjodin says.

While it is important to provide a factual basis for why someone should purchase your product, you don’t want customers to feel as if they are being asked to drink from a fire hydrant.

“Buying decisions are seldom based on a massive amount of detail but are strongly linked to positive feelings the audience has about the speaker,” Sjodin points out.

(3) Do be the first person in the room and know who your audience is.

“Audience analysis refers to knowing who will be in the audience,” Sjodin notes. “This intelligence is golden, as the more you know about your listeners, the better able you should be to fine-tune the presentation. But sometimes you will have no idea who will be present, and they might have no idea who you are.”

The solution is to be the first person in the room. By greeting listeners as they come in, you can exchange a few words and, time permitting, ask them what they might like to know about your product or service.

“In so doing, your presentation has already begun, and you have likely won a friend,” Sjodin says.

(4) Keep in mind that for a lunch-and-learn seminar, the food is important.

Lunch-and-learn seminars are popular in the investment world.

“A common mistake,” Sjodin says, “is for the financial adviser to lecture while guests are eating. Few will pay attention!”

Sjodin recommends that, prior to lunch, open the session with a few welcoming remarks, advising that lunch will be served in a moment and that afterward the presentation will begin.

“In summary,” Sjodin notes, “providing your team with presentation skills training will boost their comfort with the new job responsibilities and help them to succeed.”

In Presentation Ready, Sjodin puts her all into helping readers become more effective in the world of sales. It is a shot of confidence-building Vitamin B-12 and the ideal gift for employees preparing for a required change in performance skills.

Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers,
which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993,
or e-mailed to Lagombeaver1 – at – Gmail.com.